Soda. It's good stuff, sweet, flavorful, and fizzy like nothing else on Earth. It comes in cola-flavored, lemon-lime, cherry-cola, sassafras-flavored even, but haven't you always wondered what a certain "flavor" would taste like in a soda? Like mint, or raspberries, or even parsely (don't ask)! Well, with a couple bottles, a bit of yeast, some water, and a healthy dose of sugar, you need wonder no more!

Here's the most basic equipment you'll need:
A Large Pot - Stainless steel is preferred, but that's really just a personal thing. A good size is about six quarts, but it really depends on how often you want to brew soda and how much soda you intend to make.

Heavy, Un-threaded Glass Bottles - I haven't noticed that any particular shape, size, or color of bottle gives the soda any special virtue, but it is necessary that you use good, strong bottles if you want to prevent explosions. This is especially important for the soda brewer, as you're bottling active yeast and an amazing excess of sugar. A dozen beer-sized (16 ounce) bottles is ideal for the beginning homebrewer. It's also nice to have a set of smaller "test" bottles (8 ounce, or those mini-liquor ones) which you use to check the carbonation of the beverage.

Bottle Capper - Obviously, if you have bottles, you probably need a means to cap them. They range in price from about 7.00 dollars for a really cheap, simple one, to over 100.00 dollars for a really fancy kind. I'm a big fan of the simple 7.00 dollar kind.

Bottle Caps - To go along with the capper. Caps are usually sold by the gross for two or three dollars.

Bottle Brush - To clean your bottles, you should probably invest in a bottle brush. It's basically a stick, one end of which is covered all the way around with bristles. Thus, it can be shoved into a bottle mouth and used to vigorously scrub the interior.

Large Glass Jug or Carboy - For holding your soda while it's in transit from pot to bottle, you're going to need some kind of jug. A glass apple cider works well, and a milk jug will do in a pinch, but ideally, you should invest in a carboy. A carboy is merely a large, squat, glass jug. It looks something along the lines of an office water cooler bottle, except made of glass and posessing significantly thicker walls.

Funnel - Not really a "necessity", but pretty close. Use it to transfer the soda from pot to carboy, then carboy to bottle.

Assorted "Should-Be-In-Your-Kitchen" Things - Measuring cups/spoons, something with which to stir, thermometer, strainer.

Now, the three most basic components of a "soda".

Yeast - Yeast, it eats the sugar, produces carbon dioxide and, if you let it work long enough, alcohol. The idea is to not let it work long enough to produce alcohol, but just enough to create carbonation.

Personally, I've found ale yeast to produce the best sodas, but feel free to experiment with other types of yeast to see which one you like.

Sugar - Sugar, it is food for the yeast, and gives flavor to your soda. Yeast-carbonated sodas probably won't work with artificial sweeteners (nutrisweet, equal, splenda, et cetera), but I've never tried this as the very idea seems sacriligeous

Water - It gives the yeast a place to live, and it's the medium in which you convey the flavors of the soda and the carbonation.

Okay, so now you have the equipment and the basic ingredients. What do you do now? We'll use imaginary Foo Soda in this demonstration. Also, we'll assume you have the all the equipment listed above.

Before you start gathering up your ingredients and firing up the stove, the very, very FIRST thing you must do is sanitize your bottles and carboy. This is easily done with some dish soap, water, and the bottle brush. Also, if you really want to be clean, you can then soak the bottles in a weak bleach solution, a little over teaspoon of bleach to every gallon of water.

Sanitation is important since your soda is going to spend a good day or two at room temperature while the yeast works. If there are any other microbes in your drink during that period, the unpleaseant flavors could surface (if not mild food poisoning).

With squeaky clean bottles in tow, now it's time to start brewing your soda. The first step is to simmer the ingredients together in a large pot, so that all the flavors can properly seep into the water. So, for Foo Soda, we'll combine two quarts of water, two cups of sugar, about ¼ ounce of foo and a ¼ ounce of widgets, and simmer it all together for about half an hour. You probably don't want to boil the water, as that tends to really de-oxygenate and give the final product an off-flavor.

While you're simmering, now would be a good time to proof the yeast. So, take 1/8 of a teaspoon of ale yeast (or, if you're doing this for the first time, that bread yeast you just happened to have in the kitchen) and toss it in a ¼ cup of lukewarm water. This "revives" the yeast, and gets it ready to start gobbling up sugar and producing carbon dioxide. Careful, if the water is too hot, the yeast will die, and if the water is too cold, the yeast won't wake up. You're aiming for room temperature (70-86 F or 21-26 C)

After all that simmering, you now have bits of foo and widget floating around in a sweet, foo and widget tincture or tisane of sorts. Get out the strainer and the funnel, and strain the fluid into your carboy so that you no longer have bits of foo and widget in there. Next, mix in another one or two quarts of cool water to the carboy so that 1) the mixture gets down to a reasonable temperature for the yeast and 2) the mixture isn't evilly, sickeningly sweet/flavorful.

Once the Foo Soda liquid is the right temperature, add the yeast. Cap the carboy, then invert, shake, or toss it around a couple of times to ensure the yeast is evenly mixed. Proceed the to bottling it all before it gets a chance to ferment or become infected with foreign microbes. Leave a little bit of air in each bottle, "head space" if you will. Set the bottles in a nice, temperature stable place.

After two days, open a bottle (preferably a smaller "test" bottle), and check it for carbonation. If it's as fizzy as you want it to be, immediately move all the bottles to the refigerator to prevent gushing and exploding bottles. If it's not fizzy enough, check it again tomorrow. If it's still dead flat after three days, you probably have dead yeast and need to either throw out the soda, drink it flat anyways, or pour it all back into the carboy and try a new dose of yeast. In summertime, you should probably check the bottles after a 36 hours.

Once refrigerated, you may want to let the soda sit for another day or two so that the yeast can settle out. But, if you like the flavor of yeast, then just dive right in. The soda should be good in the refrigerator for about a month before carbonation builds to gusher-explosion levels.

Experiment with various ingredients in soda! Fruit juices, fragrant herbs, tree sap, flowers, anything that strikes your fancy!

Soda Recipe Index

If you have a soda recipe you'd like to have indexed here, just message me.

Cream Soda
Elderflower Soda
Pumpkin Soda

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